In "A & P," what does Sammy's description of the three girls reveal about his character?  

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Sammy describes each of the three girls in turn. His description of the first girl reads as follows:

She was a chunky kid, with a good tan and a sweet broad soft-looking can with those two crescents of white just under it, where the sun never seems to hit.

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Sammy describes each of the three girls in turn. His description of the first girl reads as follows:

She was a chunky kid, with a good tan and a sweet broad soft-looking can with those two crescents of white just under it, where the sun never seems to hit.

From this description, we can infer that Sammy is a little lascivious. He focuses entirely on the girl's physical attributes and describes them in an overtly sexual manner. He describes her "can," or bottom, for example, as "sweet broad [and] soft looking." This description implies a hungry person salivating at the prospect of a delicious meal, and indeed Sammy looks at the first girl as if he wants to consume or possess her. He sexualizes and objectifies her.

Describing the second girl, Sammy says,

there was this one, with one of those chubby berry-faces, the lips all bunched together under her nose.

The phrase "this one" seems rather dismissive, again implying that Sammy doesn't have much respect for these girls. He also again focuses exclusively on the girl's physical appearance, although this time his description is more derogatory and critical. He describes the girl's face as "chubby" and her lips as "all bunched up." It's as if he has an idea of female beauty against which he judges and assesses the girls.

Sammy then describes the third girl as follows:

the third one, that wasn't quite so tall. She was the queen. She kind of led them, the other two peeking around and making their shoulders round. She didn't look around, not this queen, she just walked straight on slowly, on these long white prima donna legs.

In this third description, there is a hint of Sammy's rather lascivious, sexualized attitude toward women when he describes the third girl's "long white prima donna legs." His focus this time, however, is on the relationship between the third girl and the other two. In this third description, we can infer that there is (at least a little) more to Sammy than the lascivious voyeur suggested by the previous two descriptions. His observations as to the relationship between the three girls are astute and perceptive. He sees how the third girl leads the other two like "the queen," and how the other two girls "peek . . . around and mak[e] their shoulders round." He reads in the body language of the other two the deference they afford to the third girl, and likewise he reads in the body language of the third girl her supercilious attitude toward the other two. From this third description, then, we can infer that Sammy is a rather perceptive observer of people and perhaps a more thoughtful person than we might have given him credit for on the basis of the first two descriptions.

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One of the fascinating aspects of this story is the way in which it reveals the character of Sammy to us through how he looks at the world and perceives objects. It is important to remember that the narration of this story is in the first person, so we see things through Sammy's eyes, and often what he sees is more a reflection on him that it is on what he is actually describing. Consider how he describes the "queen" of the girls:

She kind of led them, the other two peeking around and making their shoulders round. She didn't look around, not this queen, she just walked straight on slowly, on these long white primadonna legs. She came down a little hard on her heels, as if she didn't walk in bare feet that much, putting down her heels and letting the weight move along to her toes as if she was testing the floor with every step, putting a little deliberate extra action into it.

Let us remember that Sammy is an adolescent male, and therefore is pumped full of hormones that are crashing around inside of him. As a normal redblooded male, we can understand his appreciation of Queenie's "white primadonna legs" and the way that he focuses on them. However, what is also interesting is the way in which he also shows how observant he is and picks up on details such as the way that she comes down "a little hard on her heels." This shows that Sammy is not just a sex-crazed teenage boy but also somebody who has an eye for detail and is more observant than the average person.

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